Genomic imprinting, growth and maternal-fetal interactions

Féaron C Cassidy, Marika Charalambous

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In the 1980s, mouse nuclear transplantation experiments revealed that both male and female parental genomes are required for successful development to term ( McGrath and Solter, 1983; Surani and Barton, 1983). This non-equivalence of parental genomes is because imprinted genes are predominantly expressed from only one parental chromosome. Uniparental inheritance of these genomic regions causes paediatric growth disorders such as Beckwith-Wiedemann and Silver-Russell syndromes (reviewed in Peters, 2014). More than 100 imprinted genes have now been discovered and the functions of many of these genes have been assessed in murine models. The first such genes described were the fetal growth factor insulin-like growth factor 2 (Igf2) and its inhibitor Igf2 receptor (Igf2r) ( DeChiara et al., 1991; Lau et al., 1994; Wang et al., 1994). Since then, it has emerged that most imprinted genes modulate fetal growth and resource acquisition in a variety of ways. First, imprinted genes are required for the development of a functional placenta, the organ that mediates the exchange of nutrients between mother and fetus. Second, these genes act in an embryo-autonomous manner to affect the growth rate and organogenesis. Finally, imprinted genes can signal the nutritional status between mother and fetus, and can modulate levels of maternal care. Importantly, many imprinted genes have been shown to affect postnatal growth and energy homeostasis. Given that abnormal birthweight correlates with adverse adult metabolic health, including obesity and cardiovascular disease, it is crucial to understand how the modulation of this dosage-sensitive, epigenetically regulated class of genes can contribute to fetal and postnatal growth, with implications for lifelong health and disease.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue numberPt Suppl 1
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 7 Mar 2018


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